Webber’s Olympic experience was more than just a game

SUSAN Webber’s place in Olympic folklore stretches further than simply skippering her country at two Olympic Games, in Sydney and Athens.

Like any sportsman or woman worth their salt, Webber’s aim was to become an Olympic medallist – but perhaps the biggest battle had already been won.

The 2000 Olympics in Australia represented the first time the South African women had qualified for the Games since apartheid, having missed the cut in 1996.

Ninth place saw South Africa miss out on the podium and an identical finish four years later in Greece represented a disappointing performance for Webber’s side.

However, the memories of the Games greatly outlive the performances Webber’s team produced. And the significance of being part of that historic squad in 2000 is something that will live with her forever.

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“We finished ninth in both Games and had one or two matches finished slightly differently in Athens 2004, then we could have finished higher,” recalled Webber, a former player for Canterbury in the Women’s Premier League.

“But more significantly, the Sydney Olympics were the South African women’s hockey team’s first since the end of the apartheid regime, as we did not qualify for Atlanta four years earlier. That was really special.

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“The end of apartheid meant everyone was once again given the opportunity to play sport in our country and we were able to say, like we can now with the Rugby World Cup, that the team playing for South Africa was our best team.“At the time it is all about winning but looking back, having been able to be a part of such a special multi-sport event was amazing and I have taken memories from both Sydney and Athens that will live with me forever.”

Webber will be taking part in her third Olympics next year, albeit in a slightly different role.

Working as a host for a private company will give her an opportunity to share her experiences, as she does with her pupils at Framlingham College.

The 33-year-old is predicting an atmosphere like no other.

“It’s a most amazing experience and is something you work very hard to get to,” said Webber.

“Sydney was memorable as it has been touted as perhaps the best Games ever while the job they did in Athens was remarkable. The history that went with those games made it exceptionally special.

“In London, everyone will be super excited and it is going to be fantastic. There will be lots of colour, lots of flags and the athletes will have an experience like no other.

“The Games pull together a whole host of sports that people would not normally go and watch. That makes the event exciting and gives it a unique feel.”

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